Jan 30, 2008

A Salute to two “third men in the ring”

If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I am a boxing freak. I truly have come to love the sport and to watch any fight I can get my eyes on. It’s something that has gone in crescendo and though I’ve yet to see a live fight, I’ve put in my few couple of hundred hours worth of boxing, maybe more. That being said, there are two guys I’d especially like to thank and though I might get some flak for one of the guys, I’m not one to back down on an opinion.

When you see a boxing match up you need to take a couple of factors into consideration to see how good the fight can be:

1.) Fighters: big fucking duh. Styles make fights and when you have evenly paired boxers with negligible defense, you’re probably in for a treat. Any further explanation means you’ve never seen a boxing match.

2.) Ring Size: if the ring is 22’ it could be a sleepathon since boxers have a LOT of space to run around if they’re not in the mood to engage in a fight. If it’s an 18’ ring, it could get very interesting ‘cuz there’s nowhere to run bitch!

3.) Referee: This is a highly overlooked detail and if you don’t believe me, read on and let me try and make you a believer in the power of a referee.

Why do I stress the importance of a referee in a boxing match? He is pretty much the guardian of the ebb and flow of a fight, he must maintain order, he must keep an eye out for foul play and possibly take a point off if necessary and in the last instance, he’s can make or break a fight by over interfering or being there to break things up when it is absolutely necessary.

First enters Joe Cortez, my second favorite boxing referee in all time. Joe’s catch phrase is that “he’s fair but firm”. That he’s Hispanic is a sideline bonus, don’t think I put him in this post because of that because that would be idiotic. See his fights, see his dossier, and realize he’s helped make great fights and control some psycho fuckers. One recent fight he’s gotten shit from is the Ricky Hatton VS Floyd Mayweather fight and given the style match up, I think he did a hell of a job officiating and keeping control in a messed up situation. True, Me said she hated the fight because there was too much wrestling etc, but I actually rather enjoyed the fight and was sorry to see Ricky go down. Apart from that, I had to take my hat off to Joe because officiating when Ricky is in the ring is no small order. He’s a brawler and he fights rough. He head butts, holds and punches and wrestles a lot to try and tire out opponents or to create space to hit you with a clean shot. Case in point would be his bout against Jose Luis Castillo, he pretty much wrestled Castillo until the Mexican boxer did the small mistake of living his midsection open for one hell of a body shot. But lest I stray from the topic at hand, suffice to say, Ricky Hatton fights are not something a referee should look forwards to and Joe did his bit correctly. The only point he deducted was from a blatant attempt from Ricky to try and rabbit punch (hitting behind the head). He’d been given the benefit of the doubt regarding holding, holding and hitting, head butting and rough housing and when he got frustrated and tried to tag an acceptably turning Mayweather Joe said enough, and I back up his decision even if I was rooting for Ricky. Apart from this fight, he’s done some tremendous officiating and helped me enjoy this sport even more.

Now when it comes to my all time favorite referee, that would have to be hands down Steve Smoger. He’s regarded as a lenient referee by many people’s standards but to me he always has his shit together and there are way too many classic fights he’s officiated to deny that this guy will let two fighters go at it and I mean really go at it. He’s the referee that officiates matches to show people what a boxer is truly made of. He’s often given people the benefit of the doubt when they’ve been dropped and when he stops a fight, it’s because he needs to stop it. When he breaks up the action it’s because it needs to be stopped. When he takes a point off, trust me, the guy earned it. Steve Smoger is exactly the prototype of a referee necessary for the new millennium. He lets people go at it, but gives them a chance to demonstrate if they can continue. Without Mr. Smoger, Kelly Pavlik would have had the fight stopped instead of demonstrating grit, tenacity and showing that he could win, via knockout mind you, in one of the best fights of ’07.

Other very notable mentions on my list of good referees to keep an eye out would be Tony Weeks, Jorge Rodriguez, and Kenny Bayless. By the way, yes there are other great referees, but from the bouts I’ve seen, I really need to give a very heartfelt thank you to these guys.

So here’s to the third men in the ring.



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